Report: Manning unsure he'll be in Indy
In a lengthy interview with the Indianapolis Star published Tuesday, the injured Indianapolis Colts starting QB admitted he does not know if we will be back next season with the team that drafted him back in 1998 with the No. 1 overall pick.
Manning, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time first-team All-Pro, was asked whether he wanted to return to a rebuilding Colts franchise. The organization is coming off a 2-14 season (Indy’s first losing season since 2001), one that has fired its longtime general manager (Bill Polian), its head coach, (Jim Caldwell) as well as several other assistant coaches and team personnel — most of whom have worked for the Colts for nearly or all of Manning’s tenure in Indianapolis.
"I don't want to get into some kind of fan campaign with the owner, but I think it's well-documented that I want to play in the same place my whole career," Manning told the Indianapolis Star. "It's been a privilege to play here. I love the fans, the city, the transformation of the fans, how our place has become the toughest stadium to play in, the fact our fans wear more jerseys to games than anybody else. It's been fun to be a part of that.
"But I understand how it works. I understand tough decisions have to be made. There's personal and there's business, and that's where we’ve got to separate the two. I've seen other guys leave places and it was personal. I've invested too much into this city for that to happen. We live here, we've given lots of time and money to the community and our church, and that's never going to change. Nothing changes that.
"Whatever happens, happens. I can't give you a prediction because Jim (Irsay) and I will sit down at some point and he'll get a feel for where I am and I’ll get a sense of what direction he wants to go. Right now, I have no idea."
Manning also said he hasn't had much contact with the team’s new general manager, 40-year-old former Philadelphia Eagles executive Ryan Grigson. Manning told the newspaper that, while rehabilitating from a series of neck surgeries that forced him to miss the entire 2011 season, he finally ran across Grigson last week at the Colts facility.
One thing Manning does know from that brief introduction? The decision might be more the owner’s than the general manager’s.
"One thing he (Grigson) kind-of, sort-of told me, without really wanting to tell me, was that Irsay will be the guy I'm going to sit down and talk with," Manning told the Indianapolis Star. "That's going to happen at some point, but we haven't had that conversation yet because we really don't need to have that conversation yet."
Manning also expressed sadness for all of the former Colts associates who have left the building, a striking change for an organization that has been one of the most stable in sports for more than a decade. The QB was in the middle of a workout session with strength and conditioning coach Jon Torine last week when Torine received word he was being let go.
Manning also had reportedly been in a meeting weeks ago with former GM Bill Polian when Irsay interrupted and surprisingly fired Polian behind closed doors.
"I mean, it's 20 degrees, it's snowing, the building is absolutely empty except when you see coaches cleaning out their offices," Manning said. "I guess it's the reality of the football world, just not something I've had to deal with very often. But I'm in there every day, so I have to sit there and see it. Everybody's being evaluated and I'm no different. It's not the best environment."
Manning wouldn’t go so far to say that the internal upheaval has affected his rehab, but he made it clear he’s had trouble adjusting to the situation.
"I'm not in a very good place for healing, let's say that," he told the newspaper, referring to the practice facility. "It's not a real good environment down there right now, to say the least. Everybody's walking around on eggshells. I don't recognize our building right now. There's such complete and total change."
One thing he admits he’s sure about: He’s not retiring, not without trying to come back from his injuries. And he’s also sure a certain Hollywood actor won’t be the one breaking the news.
"I never thought 'Sodapop Curtis' would announce my retirement," Manning said, laughing, referring to actor Rob Lowe’s character in the 1983 movie "The Outsiders." "I always thought I would be the one to announce it. I'm a huge fan of the movie, but that caught me way off guard. I can't explain it. I know he (Lowe) is a friend of Jim's (Irsay), and Jim sounded surprised."